Fun marchers converge on city

Seventy-six women's marching teams led a big parade in Nelson last night, hailing the start of the 22nd National Leisure Marching Field Day at Trafalgar Park today.

Nelson is once more the host city for the event, for which hundreds of leisure marchers have converged on the city.

Its non-competitive nature is a "backdrop for renewing old friendships and making new ones," Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said at the official opening at last night's parade through Trafalgar St.

Coach Carolyn Griffith of the host team, Nelson's Globetrotters Leisure Marchers, said the annual event was last in Nelson in 2006, and the number of teams taking part each year had continued to grow.

She said the main criteria for the event was for the marchers to have fun, and she hoped those taking part would share in the spirit of Nelson's "great outdoors" theme.

She said leisure marching had been going for many years. The Nelson team was set to mark its 20th anniversary later this year. Mrs Griffith had been coaching the team for the past 12 years, and most on the team had been there that long.

She said leisure marching started as a 50-plus sport, but many in the teams were in their 70s and 80s. The eldest at today's event was 90, Mrs Griffith said.

She said the closure of the Trafalgar Centre had thrown organisation of the event into a tailspin, particularly as it was left without a wet-weather venue.

"It's been a nightmare over the past six weeks, mainly because we couldn't get any answers, so we just had to go ahead and plan being outdoors," Mrs Griffith said.

The city council closed the Trafalgar Centre late last year because of earthquake risk.

Many events have been shifted to the Saxton Stadium, but it was not able to be used for the leisure marchers' planned social event tonight, which will instead be held at the Annesbrook Church.

The Nelson Mail